It’s been a long time since we had young children in our house at Halloween. But I can still remember how ours always looked forward to Halloween and the chance to don a costume that represented what they might like to be if they could choose such a path.
It’s been a lot longer since I was a child at Halloween. But as best I can remember, I was more concerned about the candy. I really didn’t care too much about the costume. The costume was for me simply a ticket to the treats.
Of course, there was a season not too long ago when Christians were encouraging other Christians to avoid Halloween altogether. While I didn’t buy into the movement entirely, having made it through that life stage without being too scarred, I could admit at that time that the whole Halloween thing was on the verge of getting out of hand. In recent years, however, I have sensed a return to more aspiration than awfulness and more hopefulness than horror; and I think this return to be a very good thing.
All of this Halloween business was brought back to me last week when our daughter-in-law sent Judy and me a picture of our grandchildren dressed up in this year’s Halloween costumes. Our grandson is going out as a zookeeper. It seems his interests have evolved from trains to Hot Wheels to “aminals,” as he calls them. Our granddaughter is infatuated with “Frozen,” so of course she’ll be knocking on doors as Elsa the Snow Queen. How bad can any of this be? Who among us doesn’t at times ponder what life might be like if we could become, at least for a moment, something we’d always have liked to be?
Somewhere I remember reading someone’s take on Jesus’ teaching to his disciples on the importance of self-denial. What was unique to me about that person’s interpretation was how it focused not so much on minimizing our worth as it emphasized an invitation to renounce our tendency to shortchange ourselves by settling to become less than we might be through our faith in Jesus. We might think of it as exchanging the “false self” we settle for too much of the time for the “true self” we realize when we order our existence around what Jesus enables us to be.
Church history tells us that in the early years of Christianity, converts to the faith would at baptism exchange their old clothing for new clothing that marked their transformation to the life that Christ had awakened in them. Perhaps that transformation is something we can set our hopes upon in this season of the year, which actually began as a time to commemorate the saints (“All Hallow’s Eve”) who had finally persevered to the end and received their eternal reward. If so, then every day we might see ourselves becoming closer to the person Jesus is redeeming us to be – a soul that bears witness to the presence of God, who covers us with a splendor that will last not just for one night alone, but ultimately for all eternity.
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).